Aug 282014
 

Ok, I’m getting slaughtered in the Helsinki photo contest, so it’s time to up the game. You’re going to want to read the whole post.

I’m going to pull YOU in as a potential prizewinner. That means a FREE TRIP TO HELSINKI, FINLAND for you if I win the contest (Facebook contest winner gets two tickets) and you get drawn from the list. Continue reading »

Aug 272014
 

Okay, I admit it: I screwed up.

Yesterday in my zeal to win a trip back to Helsinki, Finland I lost all common sense and spammed the crap out of  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a few texting streams.

I know better.  I should have done better.  Impatience is no excuse, but it got the better of me. Continue reading »

Aug 262014
 

Today I’m spamming the Internet with yet another appeal, this time involving a possible opportunity for this unofficial ambassador to revisit one of my favorite cities: Helsinki, Finland.

There’s no funds or funny stuff required.  Visit Helsinki has arranged a contest where contestants’ photos are displayed in a Facebook media album and all you need to do is Like those of your favorite participant.  In this instance, me.

And in case you need further motivation, as I noted in the previous post here I’m working on a book about maker communities.  One of the coauthors, Jarkko Moilanen, works in Helsinki and I’d like a chance to get with him face-to-face for a bit.  I also hope to interview former Maemo/MeeGo community members (now with Jolla) to get their perspective on collaborative communities.

I have many friends in Finland and several of them have jumped in to help.  But so far it’s not nearly enough– I’m being beaten pretty soundly by another contestant and could use all the assistance I can muster. Continue reading »

Aug 242014
 

By now regular readers know I’m heavily involved in the maker world, particularly in evangelical activities.  One of my main goals for the past three years has been to learn more about the maker experiences around the world, connect makers to opportunities and inform the general public on the reality of makers, hackers, tinkerers or whatever creative types call themselves.

All of this has been a lot of work, especially in my very conservative locale.  Every time I hit some sort of social or functional wall, I think, someone should write a maker community how-to book.

And when a common political rant emerged on the hackerspaces.org general discussion list on that very subject, it all came together for me: *I* should write that book. Continue reading »

Jun 032014
 

My apologies: this article was accidentally scheduled for publication before it was completed.  It is now updated.

Okay, enough griping about Cowtown’s obstacles in attaining some degree of technological leadership– what are some resources currently available to improve the situation?  Today I’ll go over some that are key, focusing on communities rather than places.  Not all listed are exclusively oriented around technology, but it is at least included in their scope.

I’ve mentioned these organizations in previous articles, but it’s worth gathering them together and highlighting. Continue reading »

May 272014
 

Every serious fisherman has a One That Got Away tale, usually shared with wistful regret and a declaration to get back out there and overcome the loss.  Fishermen are a stubborn lot, rarely letting anything get in between them and the prize.  They will always make the effort.

Fort Worth is surrounded by many nice lakes and as a consequence we have more than our share of committed fish stalkers.  But I’m curious: why wouldn’t that sort of dedication translate to opportunities in technology?

That’s not just a rhetorical question.  As I wrote last time ["Cowboys and Culture"], we can be a laid-back bunch in these parts, exhibiting a skepticism over urgency that would make Show-Me-Staters proud.  And as I promised in that previous article, I will now share the perfect example of one that got away… and maybe shouldn’t have. Continue reading »

May 232014
 

Yesterday I wrote about tech events in Fort Worth, Texas ["Cowtown and Code"] so it’s only fitting I expound on that theme with another alliterative article.  Today I’ll dare to get politically incorrect and lay bare one aspect of Cowtown culture that is simultaneously brag-worthy and yet fiendishly aggravating as well:

Folks are laid back here.

Stereotypical cowboy talk includes words like “mosey“, a colloquial verb describing walking much like glacial describes progress.  Like their trail-dusting forebears, Fort Worthians are usually in no hurry.  Whatever it is, it’ll wait.

This is at once endearing and maddening.  Sometimes it can’t wait, and that’s especially true with technology. Continue reading »

May 222014
 

June is looming and I’m excited: the second-ever Cowtown Code Camp is being held on the 14th and I hope to make it.

Last year it was thrilling enough that we even had this sort of event in Fort Worth; everyone in tech in DFW knows Addison, Irving, Frisco, Plano, Richardson and North Dallas are where you go for software and related events.  It’s a circle of cities that has held tightly to this honor for years, and facilitated a self-fulfilling situation.  Developers go because that’s where the events are, and the events are held there because developers go.  Breaking into that cycle, even for a single occasion, was special in and of itself. Continue reading »

May 212014
 

My current day job involves supporting safety systems on locomotives.  This is a relatively young field and can be thought of as air traffic control for trains.  Even though the associated technologies (GPS, cellular communications, data acquisition, etc) are mature, the overall development is fairly new.  This means we talk a lot about IT.  And not always kindly.

We’re part of engineering, so even from our geeky perspective IT is still a THEM.  Sure, I do some coding when I have the time but it’s just not under IT auspices.  And when our coffee talk turns to IT, as it frequently does, it’s laced with the usual fear and suspicion.  IT guys don’t play well with others.

As a fringe IT guy myself I know it’s a mistake to paint all software developers with a brush as broad as “coder culture”, but there are some stereotypes that I’ve seen generally run true. Continue reading »

May 202014
 

Last week I blathered a bit about where I’m at and hope to go.  For those interested, I’m gonna share more details today.

In case it doesn’t come across in other contexts, I’m ultimately a maker at heart.  Nothing pleases me more than to be designing, writing or building.  Something.  Anything.  I’m even happy with repairing stuff– assuming the designers put reasonable thought into that aspect of their product.  I’m convinced though that pointy-haired bosses excel at ensuring all products leaving their domain are as repair-unfriendly as possible.

For most of my adult life, I’ve made things at the direction of others.  At Texas Instruments, as a (now-reformed) defense worker, I contributed to radar and guidance system design.  At Stanley, I worked on ways of improving existing mechanics’ tools as well as inventing great new things that Marketing feared to approve.  At Medtronic, I mainly supported development and testing of surgical tools designed to cut into your skull and spine.  At Nokia, I designed quality-monitoring software solutions and supply chain processes.

All of that was wonderful. Continue reading »

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